Monday, April 8, 2013


Standing in front of your bookshelf-- or any book shelf for that matter-- there is exquisite poetry to be found.

Gazing at those books that you love, those that you have read, those that you are waiting to read, or some you may never read--without even opening those books--there are poetic gems resting on their spines.

I love poetry and am always on the prowl for techniques to create or discover writing, particularly poetry.  I am ever delighted to consider new ways to help others translate their hearts and souls, their deepest secrets, as well as their most frivolous passing thoughts. into poetic expressions, jubilant cries, sorrowful moans, or angry rants.

I was introduced to book spine poetry when a friend, knowing all of the above about me, sent me the following link for Maria Popova's blog, Brain Pickings,  with several samples of this unique and fun way to create short poems.

I have been hooked on both book spine poetry and Popova's blog ever since.

Nina Katchadourian  has included some brilliant examples of book spine poetry in her newly
published Sorted Books.

Her website provides additional insight into this process of creating poetry.

You may also want to check at more examples at the Book Spine Gallery for 2013.

So, how do you create book spine poetry?

It is simple.

You just select several books, and play with arranging the titles as lines of your poem until you are satisfied with the meaning or poem produced. Then photograph your creation.

You may start with a meaning you with wish to explore or create, or you may allow the selected books at hand to determine the direction of your work.  

Here are two of my first  attempts:

All of the book titles comprising the "lines' of these two poems are actually poetry books and all came from the same bookcase.

After realizing this, I decided to try one using  professional books and books about writing.

Below is the resulting book spine poem from that effort.:

As I reread and re-envisioned this poem, I decided that moving one book would change the meaning and create the effect i wanted. Here is the revised version.

How would you arrange the above books?

What books might you add to the mix or take away?

You can play with this form by creating your own additional rules or limits.

Can you use only books from a particular shelf?

Can you use only books that are red, or yellow or some other color?

Can you use only books from your to-be-read pile?

How else could you structure your choices or books, titles and words?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Select  books from your shelf to arrange to form a short poem.

You may want to try several arrangements of your books.

Once you have an arrangement of books, titles, and words that pleases you, take a photograph of your creation.

What did you discover about your books and yourself as you worked on this project?


  1. Love this idea! Gotta go to my shelves and see what poetry is awaiting me!

  2. Gretchen, let me know what poetry you find. I invite you to share your photos here in this space.